My personal story on crime prevention
Octavia Nkosi, South Africa: Personal story on community crime and women
I grew up in the deep rural area where there was no light or a cellphone, and due to that it was difficult to deal with crime. The offender would be arrested using a sangoma (traditional doctor)or following the footsteps if not he will go scot-free. Today these steps are said to be unreliable and inadmissible evidence before the court of law. So a new way has to be developed lest we die in anguish and ignorance, but thanks to the new technology, the cellphone and internet.
The only way to alert neighours of crime in your household was to bang a tins sheet metal object hard and scream but sometimes that might expose you to danger as the criminal would easily identify where you are and how many are you. As you know a lot of men are working in the cities and towns, it is only women and kids remaining behind. A plan came that we should use cellphone with the hardship it has; there is only house where we all charge them during the day and not everyone has got one. Then an idea came that we open a kraal and let loose of the cows so that as they bellows, they disturb the quietness and neighbor from far and on the side of the river can hear cows sound and respond. Remember even today police station and presence is still a problem. It takes 4 hours for police to arrive as they come from town 30 km away from the village. It is worse if you want to be taken to hospital, which is 23 km away, the ambulance would take up to 6 hrs to arrive. This is the rural area and its wonders. It is said that, ‘Out of a crisis, comes an opportunity’ and this is where new idea came about.
Eventually with the advent of democracy, women initiated a neighborhood watch committee (Community Police Forum, CPF) and the council, the chief approved it and now things are bit different. We started banging the sheet metal and let cows bellows, but of late we respond to crime by sending an sms to the teacher - has a laptop. He would wake up at night responding to the beep in his celphone, on the laptop; locate the caller and the village. In less than 5 seconds he dispatch sms to all ward village member groups giving the name of the family that send SOS (save our souls) call. Action is taken and crime is dealt with. However women are not always trusted, because the committee end up getting involved in uncalled for disputes such as lover quarrel, family disagreement and spouse issues which do not necessarily involve crime. The following day, the same women we were helping would be first one to drop the charges against family member or a spouse and instead open the case against the committee. As we are closer to Mozamique and Swaziland border gates, there is influx of migrants who come for work on mines and farms, they too become victims of circumstances, they are accused by women of rape, robbery, and sexual assault, and when we intervene and got the ‘victim’ arrested, the same women would drop charges the following day. My plea to women is we need to be honest and firm, this is the only we can deal well with crime and gender based violence and the only way to keep committee function well.
This has caused the committee to lose the few men we have in the committee, even the chief and the police no longer take us serious thus we need to improve our working relations with them. Have been a member of the Voice, I had introduced the Wes 2.0 to the committee and we find it cheap to use and communicate. Thanks to Zoe and the team who made this happened. Today download successful women stories around the globe and we learn everyday of new ways to improving our lives, our safety, our community struggles and our families.